Category Archives: life

The Good Kids

As I was driving home from a gig yesterday, the LA sun painted the San Gabriel mountains with just the perfect Tuscan hues, and it got me thinking about June and Stick moving back to LA, because how could they not? and that got me thinking about our secret long-term strategy to marry our two great houses together. Sophia and Zane, or Sophia and Nate, we’re fine with either. And that got me thinking about our kids. It got me thinking about Ella, and Z, and Nate and Zane, and Camille and James, and all the other little munchkins that are trolling along behind the Addison Road crew.

There’s a good chance that none of our kids will end up married, although I will lay a $200 bet that Ella is going to be Josiah’s first heart-breaking crush. Although nothing would thrill me more than to look across the aisle on that sacred day and see one of y’all sitting there, parents don’t really get to plan that kind of thing anymore. Still, the thought of it gave me hope.

The reason I would love to see any of my kids with any of your kids is because I’ve seen how you are raising your kids. I can see the trajectory you’ve set them on, and 20 years from now, they are going to be incredible people. And it gave me hope, that there are people in the world who value the things we value, who are teaching their kids to be respectful and curious, joyful and passionate, hardworking and generous. And if you guys are doing it, then other people are doing it to, and if there are such people out in the world, then there is a chance that my daughter will arrive at 26 and find that there are men in the world worthy of her attention, and my son will find that there are women who will make him want to grow up and become a man worthy of their attention, and that thought gives me hope.

Carry on, good people, your sacred mission of stewardship, so that our charges will burst into the world full and glorious and bright, and will charge the heights in the company of good and worthy friends, well-suited spouses, and a cloud of witnesses to give them strength. Carry on.

Post Royal Wedding Thoughts for Husbands

Hi Husbands.

Most of you rock.  Keep up the good work.  I’ve heard some bemoan the Royal Wedding and can practically see the eyes of your profile pictures roll when the topic comes up.  And for you I have the following thoughts.

I am not naturally sports-minded.  I enjoy the emotion in the last few minutes of any close game.  I get a kick out of watching lives change, for example, with the NFL draft this week and watching guys’ faces upon the fulfillment of their lifelong dreams.  But I can’t predict the next play, or come up with a good game strategy, or tell you stats.  My patient husband never writes me off when it comes to sports.  He is happy to explain things to me in a way that does not make me feel any less smart.  Even though the Super Bowl is of no importance to me, I can still buy snacks at the grocery store and invite people over on the day of the game.  I’m interested in what interests him.

You are (probably) not Royal Wedding-minded.  But I’ll tell you a secret. If you pay attention to it, for just a few minutes, you may score some points with your wife.

Some have said, “What’s the big deal about some people we’ve never met getting married?”  Good question.  What IS the big deal?  I can tell you for this girl the curiosity of anticipation involved things girls love.  For example: weddings (duh!), traditions, nobility, fashion, and people (could have a whole conversation on Elton John alone).

But here’s the heart of the answer.  She walked down the aisle.  He exchanged glances with his brother.  He finally saw her.  And we watched him mouth the words “You look beautiful.”  Forget about it!  Prince Charming is telling his bride she is beautiful.  That’s the part I can’t explain.  I physically had to grab the hand of the woman next to me.  You don’t have to get it.  But if you can be interested in what makes your wife’s heart leap, you just might see the fulfillment of a lifelong dream.

We all create our own circus.

I totally agree with Jerry Seinfeld, that the upcoming royal wedding is a circus act.  But so is the Superbowl.  So are the Oscars.  And so was the last episode of Seinfeld.  We are all drawn to different events that make life fun and interesting.  Therefore, I say, cheers to the handsome couple!

Family Quotes

Me: I realize you are capable of going to the grocery store, but if there’s anything you want me to get for dinners while I’m gone, put it on the list.

Jason: McDonald’s gift cards should be fine.

Has your family said anything memorable lately?

Transition

Earlier today, Gretchen and I stood up in front of the church and announced that I would be stepping down from my position as Worship Leader at Christ Community Church.

A Little History

About 9 years ago, I was the worship leader for a small church plant in the Inland Empire. It was not a good experience. The leadership was not supportive, our relationship with the pastor was demeaning, and when we left we shook the dust off our feet. I had no place to go, no obvious means of income, but we had to get gone.

We bounced around for a few months, moved to Burbank, and then out of nowhere I got an email from Doug Scholten, the pastor at CCC. Their worship leader had left with two weeks notice, and Doug was scrambling to find an interim who could hold down the gig for a month or so while they looked for someone to take the position. We met, it went well, and I agreed to cover the gap. Mother’s Day of 2003 was my first Sunday at the church.

As they looked at candidates for the position, they asked me if I was interested. I kept saying no – I wasn’t interested in a church gig, I didn’t want to get back into that mess.

After 6 months, Gretchen and I realized that we did, actually, really want to be there. The people were warm and welcoming, the position was well-defined and well-suited to my abilities. More than that, Doug was the kind of pastor that all church musicians hope for. He respected music and the arts, was willing to try new things, and was able to step back and allow me to do my job. I submitted my resume, and they hired me as the Worship Leader.

Some Highlights

In my first year at CCC, Doug asked me to preach. It was the first time I had been asked to preach anywhere. It was an overwhelming and awe-filling experience, and one that I came to both dread and relish.

We have a seasonal choir at CCC, but most of the choir lit wasn’t appropriate for our group. I started writing and arranging music for our choir, and as I’m sitting here looking at my scores folder, over 8 years I’ve written or arranged 30 pieces of choral music for this choir. There’s nothing quite like the relentless necessity of Christmas and Easter to force you to build a catalog of work!

Good Friday has become a tradition of experiential risk-taking for us. One year we created an immersive environment with 30 laptops projecting photos and videos, and live-blogging stations for people to record their reactions. Last year we booked a string quartet to play a meditative concert of challenging contemporary music. The path from “What if we …” to “Let’s try it!” was well-worn.

A few years ago, we added a Classic service at 8am on Sunday mornings. I wasn’t thrilled with the idea initially, but it has become the perfect way to start the out the Sunday haul. Instead of jumping right in to running charts, setting tech, rehearsing the band, I get to start the day by sitting quietly and playing through two hymns with a small congregation. It’s a brief meditation for me, and has become one of my favorite things.

In the time I’ve been at CCC, we’ve had about 12 students from APU come through and play with the team, sometimes for a few weeks, sometimes for much longer. It’s been a place where some of the things we talk about in class can be worked out very practically, like a “lab” extension to the lectures.

Both of our children were born and then dedicated at CCC. I love that we gather around and lay hands on new parents, commissioning them to the ministry of parenthood.

The Transition

In the last few years, Gretchen and I have been feeling a strong pull to find a local church. We love many things about CCC, but the drive is 45 minutes on Sunday morning, and an hour and a half during rush hour. The time and distance mean that we can’t be part of the community of Christ Community Church. Our kids can’t be in the children’s choir, Gretchen and I can’t be in small groups or make it out to social functions.

We believe in the mission of the church. We believe that it has the power to change lives and communities. That power, though, is worked out through the relationships within the church, and between the church and those in the community around it. If you’re only present for Sunday morning, if you are forced by time and distance to stand one step removed from the other people in the congregation, then you might be “going” to church, but it is impossible to participate in the transforming power of church. You can’t serve the mission. You can’t be served by the mission.

So, we starting praying and looking for a chance to make the transition to a local church.

The Road Ahead

February 27th will be our last Sunday, after which I will step down from my position as worship leader. March 6th I’ll begin leading a small early morning chapel service at a large church in the Irvine area. It’s a traditional music service, with piano and organ, along with the occasional string quartet and guest soloists. It’s early in the morning, and so I’ll be home in time for us to find a 10:30 service at a local church, where we can attend together as a family.

There are many things we will miss from the last 8 years, but there are also some things we’re looking forward to.

We’re looking forward to sitting together during a worship service.

We’re looking forward to attending a small group or bible study together.

I’m looking forward to being that guy every worship leader dreams of, who walks up after the service and says “Hey, I’d love to sub on the worship team sometime if you need someone to cover keyboards,” and then can actually play!

I’m looking forward to a smaller scope of responsibility, to a simpler service. I’m looking forward to Easter and Christmas being seasons of joy, instead of dread.

The seed that was planted with the hymn service at our church has blossomed. I’m looking forward to playing music from the deep and rich tradition of the church.

I’m looking forward to volunteering for things … or, saying “no” to things!

Leaving Well

There are so few times in Church when we are able to leave well. It seems like most transitions happen because the church is unhappy, or there is conflict with the leadership, or character issues, or because someone leaves for a better gig, or more money, or … anyway, we as a church have a bad history of ending ministries well.

This is a good transition. Hard, but good. We are leaving a healthy ministry behind, we are leaving with the blessing and goodwill of the congregation, and we are leaving for the best of reasons.

This is a good thing.

Generousity of Spirit … and Legos

My son did something beautiful this Christmas. He gave a simple, pure, thoughtful, costly gift to his cousins.

Josiah loves Legos, because he is alive and a boy and because they are awesome. About a month ago, he also started getting really into rockets. Not sure what triggered it, but they too are awesome. So, he takes his Legos, and stacks them up into big tall towers, and they are rockets, and he flies them around the house.

A few weeks ago, he stacked up 3 big towers of Legos, and asked Gretchen to help him wrap them.

“Why?”

“This one is for my Zacky, this one is for my Jacob, this one is for my Joshua, these are for Christmas.” He wanted to give his Lego rockets away to the three boy cousins we would be seeing over the holidays.

For three weeks, we kept asking him if he still wanted to give them away. We wanted to make sure he understood that giving a gift meant the person gets to keep it, and you don’t have it any more. They were his Legos, he could give them away as presents if he wanted to, but if he did he wouldn’t be able to play with them anymore, they would belong to his three cousins instead. We weren’t trying to talk him out of it, but we did want to make sure he understood what he was doing.

He did, and he was unwavering. He wanted to give them away. So, of course, we let him.

And so, on Christmas Eve, he gave the most precious thing he owns away to his cousins, so that they could have rockets.

The last three months have been rough with him. He drops tantrums like crazy, and there is a defiant streak running through him. But there is also a purity of spirit, a part of him that acts without pretense or calculation. At the end of a hard few months, the gift of Legos was a gift to Gretchen and I too; it was a chance to see our son at his best, and draw renewed strength from that simply act of generosity.

How To Handle Hard Questions

I love the webcomic XKCD for so many reasons, not the least of which is the unpronounceable title that stands for nothing at all. Today’s comic is all about handling insightful questions from students, and it struck home. I love it.

Our Best Habit

I got an email from a friend today, and it started me thinking about the things we do that build relationships, particularly marriage relationships. We’re in that stage where kids and careers are stealing away time from just the two of us, and we have to be more “on purpose” with almost everything in our lives.

So, here’s the big questions: what’s one thing you do, one habit or ritual, that builds up your relationship with your significant other.

Gretchen and I have struggled for years to figure out how to get regular time together. Date nights are great, but they end up being more expensive than we can really afford right now. Instead, we do a once-a-week “Late Dinner”. We feed the kids crap food at 5, let them have a movie night until 8, then one of use gets them to bed and the other starts cooking. We cook good food, we relax with no time pressure, and we talk in the kitchen while we do it. We sit down at maybe 8:30 or later, and we have a slow dinner. No kids, no distractions, just time to sit and talk.

It’s a new ritual, but so far, I think it’s our best habit. And it’s on my mind because I’m missing it tonight for a crap gig. Sorry, love.

What’s your best habit?

Week O’ Projects

This is the week of projects for me. Three things on the plate:

  1. Preaching on Sunday about The Prodigal Son, focusing on the feast at the end of the story. I think I may cook up some burgers on a little hibachi grill while I talk. Mmmmmm, feasty.
  2. I’m giving a presentation tomorrow night on the state of digital music distribution, with emphasis on the legal and commercial barriers between subscription services (like grooveshark and lala.com before it’s untimely death) and download services (amazon.com and itunes).
  3. Doing a critical analysis paper on  3 different pop-rock piano songs: Tiny Dancer, Piano Man, and Drops of Jupiter. My thesis is that Elton John established a piano ballad form that Billy Joel copied, and that Train sucks.

What are you folk up to?

Faculty Awards, Round 2

Remember this, from last year?

I got nominated again this year. It’s for the “THE TEACHING EXCELLENCE AND CAMPUS LEADERSHIP AWARD”. There are 5 faculty members nominated each year.

Cross your fingers. If I win, we’ll throw a shindig at the Lee joint to celebrate and blow through that cash prize.

What I Said Tonight

Every spring, the APU School of Music faculty sits down for dinner with the students who are graduating. Toward the end of the evening, the floor is open for students to talk to share about their experiences here, and for faculty to give a few words for the road ahead. Tonight, I said two things:

First, one of the hardest things about graduating is the collapse of structure. For the past 4 years, every minute of your day has been accounted for, you have to know certain things by certain dates, you have to show up once a week and play for someone who intimidates you just a little, you have been forced into some very good habits. The day after graduation, all of that goes away. No more juries, recitals, exams, no more weekly lessons. The collapse of structure can be devastating. Figure out how to build that structure back into your life, so that you continue the good habits that are part of being a good musician.

The second thing is this: you have a power and a freedom that many of us no longer have. You have the freedom to be poor (lots of laughs, most of them from faculty members who are pretty convinced they are still living with this freedom). There is a real freedom in that. If you can live poorly, you can make creative decisions for creative reasons, without having to worry about how much money the gig pays. Don’t trade that freedom away too soon.

Don’t buy a new car. Don’t take on debt. Find roommates, eat at home, don’t buy things you don’t need. The less money you HAVE to make each month, the less time you have to trade away for that money. You don’t want to live this way forever, but for these first few years, embrace the freedom of being poor. You may not ever have a time like this again.

I don’t mean to romanticize poverty, at all. I do, however, think that I started worrying about making money earlier in my career than I should have, and passed up on the chance to do some really great projects because they didn’t tally up on the bottom line.

I’m interested to hear your thoughts. I know as a group we’re all over the map in terms of both income and creative choices, I wonder how often we stop to think about the particular blessings of whatever situation we are in at the moment.

breathing room

“It was a beautiful song, but it ran too long. If you’re gonna have a hit, you gotta make it fit. So they cut it down to 3:05.”  -Billy Joel, “The Entertainer”

I have been watching Thirtysomething on DVD.  There are selections that include comments from the actors and directors, and I thought, “Do I really want to hear that?”  Sometimes is nice to simply enjoy something great and not overanalyze it.  But curiosity won me over, and I’m glad it did.  Rather than pull back the curtain and ruin the facade, as in The Wizard of Oz, it only made me appreciate the episodes more.  Like if a great jazz musician says, “See how I used that scale?  Then I used this alternate fingering”, etc. and all the more you say, “Brilliant.”

Currently I am pondering how one writer compared writing in the 80s to writing now.  He said dramas in the 1980s were written in four acts, now they are written in six (gotta sell some commercials).  He said he wished he could write again for Thirtysomething because he was given seven more minutes to tell the story.  Seven more minutes.

Why are we in a rush to tell a story?  Oh, yeah, to sell commercials.  He even knew the seven minutes that were cut in that episode’s re-runs.  One example is a man noticing a woman, and his wife noticing him noticing her.  He said it was cut because there was no dialogue, therefore there must not be a story.  Hello, can THAT be more of a story?!

So I am pondering the importance of breathing room in the context of the creative process.

Another comment from that writer: his outline from the producers, he says, was 1.5 pages long.  Today outlines are 14 pages long (for seven minutes less).  He said episodes kind of write themselves now, because there’s no time to cover anything that’s not in the outline, or, for example, have a character reflect on the plot twist.

The same circumstance resonates to me with teaching.  I work on a phenomenal staff who have proactively decided to set aside minutes at staff meetings to reflect on certain topics.  We have found it powerful.  And we bring it to the classroom.  “The role of reflection has been described repeatedly in studies of teacher effectiveness. (-James Stronge)”  Here’s a catch 22: We are given fewer instructional minutes and more standards to cover than ever (think “an inch deep and a mile wide”).  Reflection time has shown to increase aptitude of those requirements, and yet reflection itself is not a requirement.  Hmm.  Just like life, we resist the urge to race from one task to another, and the need for each one to happen faster and more efficiently.

Recently Jason shared with me that a conductor at his gig asked the string players to start their vibrato before they bowed.  I loved that.  Literally and figuratively.  The instrument is already vibrating.  You are just inviting the sound to come out.  Likewise, and to bring this full circle, two of the Thirtysomething characters were cast to walk into the room in the middle of a conversation.  The actors said they took the liberty of writing what might have been the start of the conversation so they could begin down the hall and walk into the scene ACTUALLY in the middle of a converstion.  What a concept!  They got it right.

As usual, I have no idea if my thoughts will traslate into anything meaningful for Addison Road.  My thinking is pretty open-ended.  Do you have or make time in your life for reflection?  Spritually?  Musically, or whatever your craft may be?  Do you ever take time to sit in a room and listen to silence, or to enjoy the process (rather than outcome) of your task at hand?  I crave more of this in my life.

Music….food for our souls

The first record I remember hearing was James Taylors “Sweet Baby James”.  The vinyl sounded course and dirty.  The lyrics confused my 12-year old brain; I had no idea what love was, or how it felt to lose it.  But the melodies spoke to me. James Taylor had this way of writing about pain and longing, without sounding whiny or….to use the parlance of my particular time: “Lame”.  My parents liked his music, so I was almost forced to listen. I’ve always been glad they were James Taylor fans.

The first album I bought with my own money was the “Days Of Thunder” soundtrack. David Coverdale, Chicago, Guns N’ Roses. I grew up in a sort of racing family, so the film moved me. The soundtrack was silly, and I kind of knew it at the time.  But still, I would crank that sh*t to eleven, and imagine myself behind the wheel of a speeding race car.

Grunge came along in the early 90′s, and my interest in actually making music started to take shape. Filthy guitar tones, front-men shrouded in mystery. Why were they so angry? Where did these vicious sounds and words come from? I wasn’t a particularly angry or disgruntled kid at 14. In fact, I had it pretty easy. (It wasn’t until about 15-16 that I started to get in trouble with the local police and disrupt an already dysfunctional family) But records like Pearl Jam’s “Ten”, and the soundtrack to “Singles” made me listen beyond the melody, and forced me to focus on the lyrics. At that point, I realized that pop music mattered, and that lyrics were so important; a time-stamp of an emotion; of a generation.

In 1993, I heard Counting Crows,”Mr Jones” on the radio, cutting through the static of generic “grunge/Seattle” programming. On the record “August And Everything After”, Adam Duritz poured his heart out with reckless abandon. He sang of longing and insomnia. Of love and love lost. Of finding ones true self. He washed his words in americana, and metaphor of vast panoramas and endless highways. I longed to explore the American landscape, free of parents who didn’t understand me, teachers who couldn’t teach me – and myself, whom I didn’t really know.  The album, “August And Everything After” made me a guitar player, and a songwriter. It made me an artist, and it changed my heart forever. It made me a romantic. It made me truly care about music, and the effect it had on my life. To this day, I regard that record as one of the most important catalysts in my life – not just it’s musical influence, but it’s affect on the way I viewed the world, and how I interacted with it.  Last year, I had the opening chorus of “Rain King” tattooed on my body:  ”I belong in the service of the Queen. I belong anywhere but in between.”  I see these words everyday, and yet their meaning continues to evolve.

This post is about the music that first affected you….the music that you truly adopted as your own. The music that defined you.  What first moved you? What upset your heart and challenged your mind? What defined/shaped your taste for art?  What made you dance and sing and shout and cry – madly and unabashedly?

Sound off…  Because it this little blog has taught me anything, it’s taught me to listen. And I like to listen…

Scouting at 100

Today is the 100th anniversary of Boy Scouting in America. I am an Eagle Scout, a proud alumni of Troop 257 of Camarillo, California. I owe much of who I am today to Mr. Lance Kistler, our Scoutmaster. He was a former Navy demolitions diver who earned a graduate degree in History and then started his own very successful construction company. He was thoughtful, strong, compassionate, intelligent, worked very hard at everything he did, and in many ways he defined manhood for me.

Today, I am a college professor, and work with young men and women just coming into adulthood. I am convinced that the lessons of scouting are as relevant and significant now as they have ever been. The lessons of scouting don’t have anything to do with tying knots or scaling mountains or starting fires. What scouting really teaches is how to be a virtuous man, and it does that by providing two things that boys rarely get, but badly need.

First, scouting provides a rite of passage. It provides a set of tasks to be completed, and a ceremony upon completion where a boy is acknowledged and welcomed into a new stage of life. From that day forward, he is expected to shoulder new responsibilities, and is held to a higher standard for his actions. Some cultures have retained things like the bar mitzvah, but in our culture at large, we don’t really have anything like this. Ask any Eagle Scout what it meant to walk through that Court of Honor, to have every other Eagle Scout in the room, men of all ages, stand up and surround him, and to have them say, “You belong here with us. You’ve accomplished something significant, and should be proud. You also have a new level of obligation to those scouts coming up behind you.” It’s a very powerful thing, to have a rite of passage into manhood.

Second, and I think more important, scouting provides extended periods of time for boys to be in the company of men, while doing masculine things together. Our culture segments people into groups by age, and children spend long periods of time being influenced, primarily, by other children their own age. When children are the primary influence on other children, the result is always only one step above Lord of the Flies.

When they are under the care and influence of adults, it is still much more likely that those adults will be women. Boys need the presence of strong and intelligent women in their lives, and I don’t want to minimize the importance of that. They need to learn things that are best taught by women. But it’s also essential for boys to observe men, to join them in projects, to feel like they belong in this tribe, and hopefully to imitate the virtues that those men demonstrate. Scouting creates a unique environment where boys are invited to try on the trappings of manhood, where a set of virtues are upheld and praised that are different than those offered by their normal peer group.

There is a sense in our culture that as children reach a certain age, adults can no longer influence them. I don’t think that’s true at all. I think parents slowly lose that privilege, but the influence and attention of other adults, especially those who are not parents or teachers, becomes even stronger. And that’s really what’s happening when a group of boys and men walk 15 miles, setup camp, light a fire, cook food together, sharpen axes and clean knives, sit around telling scary stories and crude jokes. Boys are being steeped in the influence of good men, who are not their parents, and who can offer them models of how to be men.

On one of our local weekend backpacking trips into the hills above Malibu, a new kid showed up. He had missed the pre-trip meeting, where we bring packed backpacks and check over gear, so that everyone is prepared. He was a very rotund kid, and was being raised by his single mother. He showed up at the trailhead with his clothes, sleeping bag, and lots of snacks, all packed into two suitcases. If you’re missing the mental picture, suitcases don’t work well when you have to hike six miles uphill before you setup camp.

As soon as he and his mother figured out what was going on, he looked completely defeated; his mother started apologizing to him, telling him that they would have to wait until next time, and they started to move back toward their car to drive home. He was crushed.

One of the boys in our troop realized right away what was happening, walked over and said, “Hey, my name is Robert, me and these other other 3 guys are your patrol. You belong with us.” Without another word, they unpacked his suitcases, pulled out the essentials, and divvied them up into the packs of the other boys in the patrol.

Where else do boys learn about the special obligation of the strong to the weak? Where else do they learn the power of those words, “You belong with us”? Where else do they learn about the power of small groups committed to the same purpose? Where do we teach them to look out for each other, that the failing of one is the failing of all? Where do we teach them to work with others their own age not as rivals or rebels, but as a team, as brothers? Where do we send them to learn about leadership, and how real authority comes from competence and integrity, not just from conferred title or brute strength? What better workshop could there possibly be for teaching boys that the truest test of character is the endurance of failure, and perseverance in the face of defeat, that the thrill of the summit is made sweeter by the miles of sweat that came before?

Happy 100th birthday, Boy Scouts of America. Today, more than ever, I can think of no better environment for helping boys discover the substance, the virtues, obligations, and challenges of becoming men than scouting.

(This post was originally posted as a comment on this post)

To War and Back Again

Oh, my heart just aches sometimes.

Josiah and I went to war tonight.

“Please leave the door open.” Slam.

“Don’t touch that.” Poke.

“Sit down and finish eating.” Wail.

“Hold still please.” Kick.

Finally, barely fed and crammed into jammies, we slowed down just enough to read Christmas stories by candlelight, because my wife does many things well, but none better than planning perfect moments for the joy of others. So, we lit candles, spread a blanket on the floor, and read about a little girl whose father was off to war, so her mother cut apart her wedding dress to make a Christmas dress and doll for the girl, and then the two of them went into the woods at night to chop down a tree for the church pageant. Yeah, I cried a little.

And then I scooped up my boy, took him into his room, and shut off the light, forgetting to turn on his nightlight first. The room fell pitch black.

And in the perfect darkness, the rain dripping from the roof, he laid his head down on my shoulder, sighed deeply, and without words he declared his unconditional surrender.

I sang his lullaby to him in the darkness:

Lay down your head, Josiah
Lay down your head, though night is falling
The Lord protects his children through darkness
The Lord will guide your steps in the light

Long ago lived a boy named Josiah
He heard the voice of God in the night
Long ago the boy named Josiah
Led God’s children back into the light

So raise up your head, Josiah
Raise up your head, though night is falling
Hear the voice of God in the darkness
And lead his children back into the light

When I wrote it, Gretchen’s first comment was, “Wow, a little word of prophecy there, huh?” Maybe so.

I don’t know what’s ahead for Josiah and I, how many more times we’ll go to war and declare peace, or how much higher the stakes will get. I’m sure that there are nights coming when peace will cost significantly more than a song in the darkness. I don’t know how many moments in life we get like tonight, when you lift your son up, and he lays his head on your shoulder, and you try your best to weep softly so that you don’t break the magic of the moment.

He has both strength and tenderness, and I pray to God that both of them survive my parenting. I pray for wisdom and patience, to know when to be just and when to be merciful. I pray for strength that lasts through the day until I get home at night, so that he doesn’t always have to make his feast with the sparse remainder of my daily bread.

I pray that as he grows, he will look more and more like Jesus, and you can keep your damn bumper sticker. I mean that in all of the gritty ways. I pray that he learns when to braid a whip, that he has the strength to stand guard over an outcast woman and stare down an angry mob, that he speaks with fire and truth, that he spreads out a banquet for the friendless and unlovely. Most of those things, he’ll have to figure out on his own, because I don’t know how to do them.

I pray that he becomes a better man than I am.

God, you have blessed me through him. I hope that you bless him through me.

May we find peace at the end of every battle, and love, always love, no matter what.

josiah-and-daddy

Simpler Times

I’ve spent the past few weeks with this vague sense of nostalgia in the back of my mind for a time when things were simpler. I don’t know if it ever existed though – was there ever a time when we were just young and carefree? Help me out, my old friends (Hey Bobby!). Remind me.

random reflections after my first cruise

1. Lighting is imperative to ambiance.  Upon entering and exiting the boat, people were generally friendly, but in a manner of business.  “Passport, please.”   “The life vest goes over your head (duh)” etc.  Once logistics were settled, the door closed the and ship took off, Hollywood lights dazzled and the disco started pumping.  Clearly this was crowd manipulation, and after a moment of cynicism, I was delighted to be on the receiving end.  The next three days were like a trance.

This brings me to number 2.

2. Music is imperative to ambiance.  There was music everywhere of all styles.  I love live music.  I even brought my infrequently used iPod in case I got homesick for my own tunes, but never even considered taking it out.  One morning I sat listening to a guy and his guitar covering the likes of Sting, the Beatles, Jack Johnson.  I am convinced I was the first passenger awake each morning and it was truly a vacation to sit there in my Carnival robe and pretend he wasn’t getting paid, he just wanted me to enjoy some acoustic melodies.  Also, we saw a Vegas-style show covering styles from many decades… heard subwoofers booming from dance clubs… relived the sounds of high school and college around the pool… passed a jazz club bopping on the boat… there was something for everyone (and this girl was loving it all).  Someone puts a lot of energy into the music on cruise ships, and I appreciated every note.

3. Nurses are among the most important and strongest decision-making members of our society.  They don’t take crap, nor should they.

4. Money.  I was wondering if the economy had hit this industry so hard to sell $199 three-day cruises.  That’s including all meals, free room service, on and on.  (Marle ordered a Reuben while getting ready for dinner.) Over the trip I learned that that figure is the tip of the iceberg for the undisciplined.  The internet cost money.  Pricey drinks also included gratuity (they declared what percent).  The cheapest spa treatment was almost as much as the ticket to get on the boat.  But instead of presenting your credit card, you present your room key.  That must mean we’re not spending actual dollars, right?!  What I learned is that the cruise makes more money once everyone is on than they did from selling the tickets.

5. Chocolate melting cake with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a cup of coffee is really, really good.

6. I can read 70 pages at one sitting when no one is interrupting me and there is nothing else I have to do.

7. Guys, if you’re ever invited to take part in a hairy-chest competition, don’t do it.  It’s kind of funny, but you look ridiculous and are the butt of the joke.

8. No one reads the Gideon’s Bible on the “Booze Cruise”.  Mine creacked open.

9. Dancing cures motion sickness, and is also beneficial to one’s health in general.

10. I can investment energy into the girlfriends around me, but I can’t always choose THE GIRLS.  If you have great ones, there is no better return than knowing and being known.  (And laughing your butt off.)